Long before I became a New Englander I was a native of the south, specifically southern Florida. And as anyone who’s either lived in or even just visited the south can attest, no one throws a party better than a southerner (back me up here, Dayton). Because in the south a party isn’t just a party- it’s a balls-out drunken feeding frenzy of Bacchanalian proportion. I blame the heat.
It should come as no surprise that the southern party of the year, Mardi Gras, is celebrated in the party Mecca better known as New Orleans, Louisiana. French for “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras reflects the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.
Fat Tuesday, my friends, just happens to be today. (more…)
Happy Halloween and welcome to our first ever Funny Blog Friday! Me, along with a group of other hi-larious bloggers, are celebrating an otherwise spooky holiday with loads of laughter and free stuff! Click the links to participating bloggers at the bottom of the page for a chance at winning prizes and to read a lot of funny blogs, too.
Since our first Funny Blog Friday has fallen on Halloween, I thought it only appropriate to call on one of the
rantiest funniest people…er, “beings” I know for a good laugh. (more…)
A laborious and lengthy session of work on REAPERS WITH FANGS has led me to the sad conclusion that my writing needs work, so I’ve decided to give a bit of prose a try in an effort to beef up my chops.
Poetry and prose is not an area I am comfortable with as you will see, but the spirit of Halloween got the better of me and I rose to the occasion.
For better or worse I bring you:
DISTURBING ODE TO A LITERARY AGENT
So it seems that I am the subject of another interview over at H.E. Ellis’ blog this Friday, October 31st for a blog hop called Funny Blog Friday. Like I don’t have enough to do. Doesn’t this woman know it’s Halloween?!? The one day a year the souls of the dead are allowed to walk the Earth? (more…)
One of the oddest things about my blog is that I rarely utilize it for what it was originally intended- namely, sharing my writing. Since I’m nearly finished with REAPERS TWO, I decided I would share some of the writing techniques I used in the conception of that novella, and hopefully get new ideas from other writers about their character-building habits and techniques.
Today I thought I’d share a specific technique I use for conceiving characters: I assign them a song.
On the surface this may seem counter-intuitive since music is capable of conveying emotion without words, but I find that the perfect song will reveal emotions or behaviors in the characters I create long before I construct a single sentence. The right song can encapsulate a single moment or an entire lifetime of a person’s emotional experience (recent birthday boy ElGuapo knows what I’m talking about). With that in mind, I’ll describe two different ways I use music to build characters.
The first way I do this is to create a generic version of a character in my head, and then find a song that suits him/her after the rough draft is written. I find this works best for when I really want to “flesh out” a character by layering dimension over the bare bones of the initial conception. One of the characters that benefited most from this technique was the character of Raphael in THE GODS OF ASPHALT. Because his character was the most like me, I found that he was the hardest to flesh out. You’d think he’d be the easiest since I ought to know him so well, right? He wasn’t. I suppose that is because it is always easiest to hide our truest selves from ourselves. Well that, and the fact that I had never planned for him to resemble me in the first place. By the time I did my first run-though edit it was painfully obvious that I had captured myself in print.
I struggled for what seemed like forever to find something, anything, about myself in Raphael that I could use to turn him from an angry, closed-off parent into a character with true dimension. Finally I discovered that what made his character and myself alike was our inner struggle with our ethnicity. Being raised as an American in a household filled with Old-World ideals made it hard for me to know who I really was and where my loyalties lay. I was constantly conflicted and to this day struggle for a sense of equilibrium. Without realizing it I had passed that same internal struggle onto Raphael.
Once his (our) internal conflict had been revealed, I searched for music that would tell the story of a compelling character- one who grew from a disgruntled Midwestern teen into a man struggling to find peace as a proud Spanish father. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s cover of the Metallica classic ORION instantly became that song for me.
From that moment on, every time I wrote Raphael I would listen to that song. The music brought him to life for me; from the timbre of his voice to picturing the way he walked. ORION became the soundtrack to every scene Raphael was in and helped me navigate his character through the story.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – ORION
This next example illustrates the same technique, although switched-up a bit. That example is the character of Lucifer in THE REAPERS WITH ISSUES Series.
Unlike the example above where I conceived of a character before assigning him/her a song, with REAPERS I was faced with the challenge of re-characterizing established characters. The one that gave me the most trouble was Lucifer. The difficulty lie in the fact that Lucifer is more than established; he is downright iconic. There isn’t a culture on the planet that doesn’t have a vision of evil-incarnate, so how was I to reinvent him?
I knew that within the context of the story I would have to humanize him to some degree, so I decided to portray my version of Lucifer not as purely evil, but simply as…a dick. I also knew that to “flesh” him out would not be to layer dimension onto him, but to reveal him; to strip away his skin and discover what makes him tick.
I failed epically.
Every version of Lucifer that sprung to mind was a stereotypical construct from the deepest, most generic part of my brain. I had nearly lost all hope when I came up with a solution: I’d do it all backwards and let Lucifer pick his own music. Sounds crazy, right? Well it worked. I turned on my music, closed my eyes and listened to every song I could think of that wasn’t evil, dark or brooding until Lucifer revealed his song. That song, believe it or not, was CLINT EASTWOOD by the Gorillaz.
Why that song? I have no idea (I let Lucifer pick, remember?). But I will tell you that things became instantly clearer for me whenever I listened to it. I easily pictured the way he walked [slightly slouching] to the way he spoke [slightly spoiled] and imagined a dozen tiny little habits [folding origami] the instant that song became a part of his character. But as great as that song was, it wasn’t exactly right. I needed a version of that near-perfect song to do more than just bring Lucifer to life. I needed Lucifer to be reborn.
Words + Music = Art
I enlisted the help of a musician to remix CLINT EASTWOOD into something that sounded slightly more sinister, slightly more spoiled, and slightly more modern. Below is that song: Lucifer’s Remix conceived of by production musician extraordinaire, DJ Casper. Believe me when I tell you that to my mind, this song IS Lucifer.
DJ Casper – LUCIFER’S REMIX
I imagine the idea of using music to inspire or create words on a page may seem unconventional or downright bizarre, but to me it is the most natural thing in the world. I chalk it up to spending too much time on the road as a kid with nothing by my father’s music and my imagination to keep me company. I firmly blame my inability to finish GOA2 on the fact that I can’t figure out what kind of music River listens to. Like Lucifer, I’ve decided to let River choose. I am praying he’s not into Rap.
How does that work, you wonder? Let’s ask Blogdramedy:
I’ve select nine dogs (a mixed breed of real and imaginary barkers) and you write a story of 110 words around each character. They can be the main participant or just bark in the background. That’s up to you.
I’m not going to write your stories for you no matter how much Gravy Train you put in my bowl.
The final story will feature a dog of your very own. It can be one you live with now, in the past, one you hope to own some day…or your imaginary puppy from when you were wee. The ten dogs are:
Cujo (Stephen King)
Toto (Wizard of oz)
Fluffy (Harry Potter)
Eddie Crane (Fraser)
Blacktoe (Will Riker’s dog)
The dog of your choice
Some of you may know that I am not particularly fond of dogs (if you’ve read REAPERS WITH ISSUES you know exactly how much), so being challenged to write about dogs is the perfect solution for my epic case of brain mud. In fact, I’ve already gotten started on an idea that I think about…TEN bloggers may get a kick out of. Sound like we’re barking up your tree? Sign up here and join these pups in this year’s BlogShorts.
RETURN TOMORROW FOR MY FIRST INSTALLMENT!
Throw these bloggers a bone by dropping by for a tour of their yards: